Hey Mario, how about some GNU/Linux with those mushrooms?
May 1, 2018 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Hardware hackers recently disclosed a Nintendo Switch exploit that allows anyone with the portable gaming device to load Linux on the Switch without much fuss. This is Ubuntu 18.04 Running on the Nintendo Switch.
posted by Juso No Thankyou (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Frankly I'm so inured to Linux hackers putting Linux on random shit that the big news for me on this one is that 18.04 is out! Exciting stuff.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:14 AM on May 1 [11 favorites]


Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:25 AM on May 1 [23 favorites]


What I remember reading about the exploit found that makes this possible is that, for Switches currently in the wild, it is unpatchable. The exploit is in a section of non-volitile memory that is protected from writing by a fuse that is burnt out at the factory. Nintendo cannot block the exploit without physically opening up Switches and replacing the chip.
posted by JHarris at 9:36 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Rejoice! You can now use your Nintendo Switch as a shitty Linux tablet.
posted by acb at 9:39 AM on May 1 [22 favorites]


Is there an Atwood's Law equivalent for getting Linux running on things? I'm vaguely recall seeing one for Doom-running-on-things (eg, calculators).
posted by sektah at 9:41 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these.

At the heart of the Switch is an NVIDIA TX1, so you could cut out the middle-man and make your own cluster of them if you wanted. It would be expensive, though!
posted by riotnrrd at 9:44 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I'm envisioning a Linx (Link's) distro of linux especially for the switch to...shit I dunno something
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:44 AM on May 1


My favorite device/game hack is the one that puts Tetris on a soldering iron. The game raises the iron's temperature by ten degrees every time you lose. (No, I do not know whether that means Celsius or Fahrenheit.)
posted by ardgedee at 9:47 AM on May 1 [7 favorites]


Just what I've been waiting for: An opportunity to edit config files and sort out package dependency issues on my video game device.
posted by TrialByMedia at 9:49 AM on May 1 [13 favorites]


I can run Doom on a Switch

I can run Linux on a Switch

*yawn* wake me when you get Doom running on Linux on a Switch
posted by caution live frogs at 9:58 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


In an effort to get my 8 year old on board with OSS (open source software) such as GNU/Linux, I have installed Ubuntu on the Switch. He seems unimpressed with my demonstration of piping /usr/games/fortune output to cowsay.
posted by benzenedream at 10:13 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


HAHAHA YES RUNNING LINUX ON A SWITCH HOW SILLY

But the fact remains that the Switch, a portable system, is the only current-gen system without a web browser. Or rather, it has a web browser, but Nintendo has purposefully locked it off and restricted its access to being a glorified log-in applet. Also, you cannot watch YouTube on a Switch. I remind the reader that both these things are available on a 2DS. This at least promises a way around these petty stupid restrictions.

What would be high-larious is if the reason the web browser were restricted on the Switch in order to reduce attack surface.
posted by JHarris at 10:23 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


This will get fixed in later hardware revisions.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:37 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


But the fact remains that the Switch, a portable system, is the only current-gen system without a web browser.

Why does my Breath of The Wild player need a browser?

I KEED I KEED.

But seriously tho what is a switch besides a breath of the wild player.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:01 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


But seriously tho what is a switch besides a breath of the wild player.

A place to play Stardew Valley and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth while you ignore all the Nintendo specific IPs because you have an addiction and these games are just so much fun to play on the go.
posted by Fizz at 11:51 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


> He seems unimpressed with my demonstration of piping /usr/games/fortune output to cowsay.

Pipe *that* through lolcat, for rainbow colors!
posted by Pronoiac at 11:52 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


But seriously tho what is a switch besides a breath of the wild player.

It's got plenty of cool games. Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario vs. Rabbids (much better than you'd expect), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I personally have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Switch Pac-Man CE 2 (my best score on every map is among the top 20 in the world, and on a few I'm second place!), Golf Story's pretty popular I hear, Stardew Valley of course, Hyrule Warriors deluxe is coming out soon, and so on.
posted by JHarris at 11:56 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


This will get fixed in later hardware revisions.

More accurately, this will get broken in later hardware revisions.
posted by sfenders at 12:02 PM on May 1 [8 favorites]


(Game names have been changed to keep this on topic)

If I was playing netcat 8 deluxe or Dragon Quest VI (not the EMACS version) is it better on a bigger screen because some games I mean linux tools seem more difficult to use on the small switch screen.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:08 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Cool, this means you can run Minecraft on your Switch and build an emulator in Minecraft to play Mario.
posted by biogeo at 12:20 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


> What would be high-larious is if the reason the web browser were restricted on the Switch in order to reduce attack surface.

The Meltdown/Spectre exploits, and their kindred, mean that reducing the attack surface is one of the best reasons for locking out a web browser.
posted by ardgedee at 12:33 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Cool, this means you can run Minecraft on your Switch and build an emulator in Minecraft to play Mario.

Nintendo does have a version of Minecraft that you can purchase/play on the Switch but I assume you mean hacking a PC version into the game, which I guess is different. I'm not a huge Minecraft fan and don't know much about it, but I imagine there are some obvious differences between the two, so sure why not, hack away.
posted by Fizz at 12:33 PM on May 1


So will Nintendo sandbox all owners of pre-fix Switches so they can't play with post-fix Switches online, or will they just accept a totally ruined online experience as cheaters run rampant?
posted by evilangela at 12:45 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


The only reason I can think of to hack my Switch is to let me backup saves.

Nintendo --- now that your copy protection has failed yet again, can you just let us back up our save files? SD card, Internet, carrier pigeon --- I don't care what the mechanism is. Just don't be the only system I've owned in many many years that has a single point of failure for everything.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:59 PM on May 1 [11 favorites]


reducing the attack surface is one of the best reasons for locking out a web browser.

And yet, millions of people even today are running full-featured web browsers on computers that they also use to store confidential data that's even more important and personal than their Nintendo game save files. Poor deluded fools, they probably don't even understand the risks they're running.
posted by sfenders at 1:07 PM on May 1 [6 favorites]


The 3DS is so hacked it's kind of crazy. I hope the Switch gets there some day, because it is a great handheld gaming device.
posted by graventy at 1:26 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


> Poor deluded fools, they probably don't even understand the risks they're running.

Don't be condescending. I did not say this is why Nintendo did it (the Switch predates the Meltdown POC by almost a year). But they're lucky they did, not from the perspective of protecting their users, but protecting themselves.

The Internet of Shit is already a thing; why exacerbate the problem with millions of Switches being clickjacked into being DDOSbots or spambots because Nintendo did not allow their owners to proactively install the same ad blockers, virus scanners, and routine system security updates that desktops and phones need on practically a biweekly schedule? Or alternately, why should Nintendo have to shoulder the considerable expense of providing this service when it makes them no extra money to do it?
posted by ardgedee at 1:29 PM on May 1


thefoxgod beat me to it; once the tools for doing this stabilize and become trivial to use, I'll certainly use this for backing up my saves regularly, the lack of an official method for doing so being aggressively negligent on Nintendo's part. I hope that piracy won't sink the system as a result of the hack, though.

Tangentially related tragic story with a (likely) happy ending: my out-of-warranty Switch got bricked by using a 3rd party dock after the 5.0 firmware came out (the Switch has a severely non-standard USB-C implementation, with which only their proprietary, equally non-standard USB-C dock works properly). I had hundreds of hours of save games on that thing, an 80% completed Breath of the Wild first and foremost, and I was crushed because I knew I'd never restart the whole thing. I bought a replacement, but held on to the old one in hopes of one day being able to read the saves directly off the eMMC flash chip. Just weeks later, a post on the Nintendo Switch subreddit popped up about someone getting their identically bricked console fixed. Mine is being serviced at the same facility as I write this, and chances are good I'll see my precious saves again... and have a redundant Switch for trying various hacks on without risking anything important.
posted by jklaiho at 2:08 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


why exacerbate the problem with millions of Switches being clickjacked

Why would they be a good corporate citizen and not treat their users like the enemy? You're right, obviously they're not going to, but news like this just seems like a good opportunity to once again point out the absurdity of industry standard practice. Lest we forget.

I've had some game console ownership experience (the PS3, bought back when Sony advertised it as able to run linux) and it seems to me the rate of forced system updates was not substantially less than on a Windows desktop. That's despite the system having to deal with probably at least two orders of magnitude less complexity in terms of hardware configurations and device drivers. There were, of course, occasional security breaches -- mostly involving their network multiplayer service as I recall. The argument against letting users have more control of their phone or game console in the name of public interest security is less persuasive than a hypothetical similar argument against letting anyone have a desktop PC. Which, to be clear, is not terribly persuasive to me.

That it's in the financial interest of some people to lock the rest of us out of our own hardware also does not seem to me like a good reason to defend the practice.
posted by sfenders at 2:18 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]


argeedee, that isn't generally a problem with other consoles, as least as far as I know. It is not a good excuse for not offering a web browser, and it certainly isn't an excuse for not supporting a YouTube app.

As for cheating, I imagine that Nintendo will do what everyone else does. I'm sure they're watching game packets sent out for anomalous.
posted by JHarris at 2:23 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


What's the point? Piracy is the point. Jailbreak, load "backups," and avoid, you know, paying for those games.
posted by zardoz at 2:25 PM on May 1


Another reason no one has mentioned— Virtual Console hasn't hit Switch yet, so if you want GameCube games on your Switch, hacking and emulation is the way to get 'em there.
posted by Quackles at 2:34 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


why would you use your switch to play binding of Isaac when enter the gungeon has been invented
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:11 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


This can't possibly be right*, but steam claims that I have 1,157 hrs on record playing Binding of Isaac on pc. And that's not counting the time spent since I bought it again on Switch.

But now I have to look into Enter the Gungeon as well.

*it might be
posted by booooooze at 3:25 PM on May 1


Rejoice! You can now use your Nintendo Switch as a shitty Linux tablet.

That's ok. I'm sure someone is working on getting Windows on there, so you can enjoy watching the updates happen when you only turned the damn thing on to play games.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:33 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Enter the Gungeon is 100% the game I was disappointed in Binding of Isaac for not being. Instead of having gameplay that feels clunky and terrible, they decided to have gameplay that feels satisfying and good. Also they went with a charming/silly visual style instead of an Edgy Teenage Atheist style and it really works pretty well! Anyway you should all try Gungeon if you like twin-stick shooters or roguelites or just lots and lots of puns
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:29 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I just hope they convert Nuclear Throne to Switch.
posted by JHarris at 6:09 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Rejoice! You can now use your Nintendo Switch as a shitty Linux tablet.

I don't know that this is really as important right now as it will be at some point down the road, when there are millions of Switches sitting around gathering dust because Nintendo has moved on and produced a New Shiny Thing and the inexorable consumerist technology treadmill has ground on and rendered them all prematurely obsolete.

Being able to run Linux on them might make them useful and preserve some of their resale or salvage value as a hobbyist platform or as a target for emulators or third-party development once Nintendo abandons it.

My guess is that's actually why they hate alternative OSes—it's not that they care so much about the 1% of users who are going to take their new-ish Switch and put Ubuntu on it to use as an (admittedly crappy) tablet, it's because it's potentially a wedge between Nintendo Corp. and the hardware platform down the line, limiting their ability to kill it off and force upgrades. (That and pirated games, but that's already pretty hard on cartridge systems.) The idea of some other company reviving old Switches once Nintendo starts pushing some new platform is probably the thing they really don't want.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:27 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if that worry were a real thing, we’d already have seen it come to pass on the Wii, Wii U, etc. — Nintendo will simply start developing software for its next platform, and that’s enough to get 90% of their audience along for the ride.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:37 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


one of the puns in enter the gungeon is that sometimes the stinger missiles are full of bees
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:30 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I agree with DoctorFedora. The main console manufacturers depend on the release of new games to move players to platform n+1, not the library of prior games.

But I also generally agree with Kadin2048, in their point that when Switch does go obsolete, it's a way users can get further utility out of their system. It helps that it seems that the Linux port is non-invasive; I think it's localized to its SD card. You can try it out then boot back to Switch OS just by holding down the power button until the device hard resets.

In fact, if you read into the process of activating the hack, a major step along the way involves grounding one of the lines on one of the JoyCon slot input ports. Even though it's a fairly minor thing to do, that one thing alone will cause a lot of people to shy away from hacking their Switches.
posted by JHarris at 9:45 AM on May 2


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